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What Happens Next With The NCAA

On Tuesday, Yahoo's Charles Robinson said on Twitter, UNC should be and probably is expecting a letter of inquiry from the NCAA. What, you thought this was mostly done? You thought we could just wrap this up and go recruiting? Nope, not even close.

Where the NCAA's probe into UNC football is concerned, it is reasonable to divide it into two distinct parts. The first is the NCAA dealing with eligibility issues for several players. In those cases, some sort of infraction directly affecting the player's eligibility comes to light, the NCAA or the UNC discovers it and proceeds with investigating individual players. At the same time UNC declares the player ineligible and asks the NCAA to restore said eligibility. The NCAA looks into the circumstances and renders a decision on whether the player is eligible or should receive a suspension. After the reinstatement decision UNC can appeal if they want or let the verdict stand. UNC has completed this part of the probe. Now, there have been lots of semantics involved with whether this was actually an NCAA investigation in the traditional sense. The answer it "not really" which explains why UNC kept referring to it as a review and maintained it was being done jointly. In the reinstatement process, the school declares the player ineligible then the NCAA and the school come to a conclusion on the facts of the case with the NCAA determining individual penalties as needed. If the school disagrees with the penalties they can appeal which is an exercise in futility.

Now that all of the individual cases have been mostly addressed(with the exception of appeals for Devon Ramsay and Michael McAdoo) the NCAA will likely send a letter of inquiry to Chancellor Holden Thorp outlining a framework for an investigation into the football program. Here is the NCAA's definition for what a letter of inquiry entails.

Letter of Inquiry: When the enforcement staff begins an investigation, they send a letter of inquiry to the president or chancellor. The purpose of this notice is to inform school leadership the enforcement staff will be investigating possible NCAA violations at their school. The alleged facts of the case are also presented and other details are provided including an approximate time frame of the investigation.

The first question any of us who have followed this mess since July is, "Wait, there is going to be another investigation?" Maybe. The letter of inquiry basically says the NCAA thinks there are possible violations and they will be investigating. In this case it might be more of a pro forma move than anything else. We already know NCAA violations have occurred. Five players have been declared permanently ineligible. Other players served suspensions. The fact violations have occurred is not really in dispute. The letter of inquiry will likely deal with whether these violations occurred on an institutional level. Did UNC fail to monitor? Did UNC have safeguards in place? Was John Blake giving $100 handshakes to recruits or current players? How many times did Chris Hawkins use the hot tub in the training room? In short, the NCAA will be concerning itself with the processes UNC used for compliance as well as attempting to discover if other violations occurred outside of the ones we already know about. So, yes, there will be another investigation which is not a good thing because any time you have the NCAA poking around you end up with players sitting four games because they slept on someone's couch. It also means there will be no resolution in the short term.

Once the NCAA finishes up this round of rectal and colon exams, the enforcement staff will drop off a notice of allegations, that is assuming they find anything(yeah I know.)

Notice of Allegation: When the enforcement staff determines there is enough evidence to indicate major infractions, they send a notice of allegations to senior leadership at the school. The letter informs them of the inquiry and requests their cooperation during the investigation.

What this basically says is the NCAA has the goods on the school and if they want this to go as painlessly as possible they will cooperate as the NCAA digs even deeper. Hey, why stop with a couple of major infractions when there might be a player's father asking for $180,000 for his son to play football at a school. We know that is the kind of stuff the NCAA really comes down hard on. /sarcasm

It has already been illustrated that the words "UNC" and "cooperation" are exceptionally cozy when the NCAA comes calling, for some people too cozy. UNC's stated position of total acquiescence in all NCAA related matters and not being a repeat violator makes me wonder if this will come into play at some point:

Summary Disposition: Summary disposition is a cooperative process between the school, involved individuals and the NCAA enforcement staff.  If these groups agree about the facts and the penalties presented in the report, an in-person hearing may be averted depending on the Committee of Infractions. The COI reviews the report in private and decides to either accept the findings and penalties or conduct an expedited hearing.  A school that would become a repeat-violator cannot use the summary disposition process and must go before the Committee on Infractions.

In other words, it's a plea bargain of sorts. The school pleads guilty i.e. agrees with the NCAA on the facts and penalties, the judge i.e. the committee on infractions either accepts it or gives them a quick hearing to dispose of the matter. A school who has already been on the hook for violations in the past five years may not use this process. UNC should be able to avail itself of this process if they want to get it over with quickly. Given how UNC has handled itself in this arena thus far, it would not surprise me to see the summary disposition process used.

They always say the tough part is the waiting. In UNC's case, it is more unnerving since a whole recruiting class hinges on what the NCAA decides.  Unfortunately, this is a situation where UNC has zero control of what, when and how the NCAA plans to move.